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Orange chief engulfed by Apple Tablet feeding frenzy

Actually just said he'd read a magazine about it...

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Is this a record? With just four innocuous words at the tail end of a French TV interview yesterday morning, France Telecom number two Stephane Richard triggered a blogosphere-fanboi Apple Tablet feeding frenzy. He had said the launch of the beast was imminent, claimed an excitable French source, while Techcrunch, confirming the confirmation, wisely intoned that Richard had clearly been caught off guard.

Oh, really? A slightly baffled Orange (Orange is France Telecom's mobile and Internet brand) is now pointing out that Richard was merely acknowledging that he was aware of speculation surrounding the Apple Tablet. Which is surely the conclusion you'd come to if you actually watched the blessed interview. Richard says a great deal about all sorts of stuff France Telecom and Orange related, but his words on the Tablet commit him to nothing apart from reading Le Point (a French weekly that recently ran a Tablet rumour story), and there's nothing in them that could trigger a firestorm from Apple PR.

Around 6 minutes and 10 seconds into the interview, this is how it goes. The interviewer says that according to Le Point, in a few days Orange's partner Apple will launch a tablet (Richard interrupts, "Oui") including a webcam (interrupts again, "Oui"), and then asks if Orange's customers are going to benefit from the device.

At which point Richard says, "of course." And that's it, folks. He isn't actually answering a question, merely nodding to the existence of the Le Point story. And the actual question he answers is a pretty softball one that allows him to boast about the size and quality of Orange's network, and wax lyrical about how it could be used for sending people pictures from this class of hypothetical device.

In response to further questions, incidentally, he appears to favour if not a Google tax, then some form of rebalancing of the revenue playing field at Google's expense. Which might have made the public prints if everybody hadn't gone off chasing tablets instead. ®

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